‘Food is my life’–chef Ed Quimson, as his friends remember him
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At 48, he had lived a full life: two heart attacks and a quintuple bypass, multiple culinary recognitions here and abroad, a raft of Spanish-Filipino fusion dishes (paella tinola) he created, esteemed mentor to numerous culinary students and enthusiasts, sought-after consultant to hotels and restaurants, and a dear friend to countless people in and out of the food business.
He succumbed to another heart attack last Saturday morning.
Chef extraordinaire Ed Quimson will long be remembered by many as a figure synonymous to good food and good company.
I had a chance to interview chef Ed in 2004, after he went on hiatus to recuperate from his bypass. He seemed to have slowed down a bit, but, in no time at all, he was back on the scene.
Soon after, he opened the first-ever restaurant to bear his name, Chef Ed’s, on H.V. de la Costa in Makati City. Once again, he cooked luxurious dishes and ate bulalo and lechon to his heart’s content, without guilt.
He said: “After my heart bypass, my doctor gave me my restrictions—no smoking and definitely low-fat, low-salt diet. I replied, ‘Doc, you might as well kill me.’ Food is my life. I can never compromise my food and cooking.”
“In short, I’m a walking time bomb,” he quipped. “I’m even the worst type of diabetic one could be. But, what can I do? I terribly love food and cooking is my first love.”
There was really no stopping the adventurous chef. Chef Ed worked harder than ever in the kitchen to come up with innovative dishes for his diners.
After that first meeting, chef Ed became a friend of the Inquirer Lifestyle staff. He would send food to the office, such as paella marinara, roast turkey stuffed with ground pork and beef, pâté, mushrooms, capers, black and green olives, bologna and ham, and san marco.
Chef Ed was in the culinary scene for more than three decades. He came from the Tuasons, the Spanish mestizo clan whose get-togethers always featured culinary masterpieces handed down from generation to generation. Chef Ed, the fourth-generation Tuason, never failed to push heirloom Filipino-Spanish dishes in his menus.
He owed his fruitful career to four influential women. First was Rosario Wolfe. “She was our neighbor in Sta. Mesa, and she would make food sound so good. She’d call scrambled eggs huevos al gulo-gulo. She really got me interested in food,” said chef Ed.
Second was his mom Betty Gonzalez Quimson, who taught him the techniques and styles of cooking. “She had various ways of sautéing dishes, and she would explain to me why she’d put onions instead of garlic first, or garlic before onions. Her techniques really stuck with me.”
Third would be grandmother Consuelo Tuason de Casas, who “showed me the world,” said chef Ed. “My grandmother and I lived in Madrid for a long time, and that was where my palate expanded. She exposed me to different cuisines.”
The last name on the list was the late food champion Doreen Fernandez, “for sheer inspiration. When she was in the hospital in 2001, I would visit her daily and bring her soup. When I found out about my sickness, Doreen herself had 30-percent chances of surviving yet she would still push me and encourage me, saying I would overcome my sickness… I did.”
Doreen once wrote in her Inquirer column: “Ed Quimson’s special quality is not only a deep knowledge of the roots of cuisine, but most importantly, a creative impulse that makes him push tradition beyond itself by a touch, a combination, a look backward or forward, a culinary pun, wit, constant improvisation and intuitive change.”
Through the years, chef Ed shared his brilliance with numerous kitchens—La Tasca, Via Mare, Subic Bay Yacht Club, Rastro, Filos, Tres Cuisine, M Fine Foods, Petra & Pilar, Splendido in Tagaytay City and Naci Comfort Food and Dessert Bar, among them.
Apart from the paella tinola he concocted and popularized, chef Ed created numerous innovative recipes.
In one of his food festivals, he served marinated Norwegian salmon cooked tocino-style, grilled and served on a bed of vegetable sinigang. Guests also raved about his Lengua con Alcaparras, ox-tongue that had a hint of smoky flavor with tomatoes, slow-cooked for six hours.
His family’s heirloom recipes included Sotanghon Chicharon and Shrimp; Pollo ala Caserole, braised chicken with white wine, butter, olive oil, Baguio beans with bread stuffing; and Carne Frita, breaded sirloin marinated only with calamansi juice and salt.
Arroz ala Vizcaina, his grandmother’s version of paella, came with chunks of bacalao. The bacalao is a product of Delimondo, a line of gourmet food that chef Ed helped develop and produce for the Jaka group of companies.
For unique dessert, he came up with Dulce de Santol and Arroz con Leche. Dulce de Santol was basically santol cooked in sugar and water for five hours. The fruit was cooked in its own syrup. Chef Ed said the family used to eat it with kesong puti.
It was indeed a sad moment for everyone in the food industry when news came of the passing of chef Ed.
Many of his good friends could only relive the goodness, kindness and generosity of the man. He was a funny man, too. Big guy that he was, you couldn’t miss his presence in events. He had a loud speaking voice, so heads turned whenever he talked.
Katrina Ponce Enrile
His closest friend, Jaka president Katrina Ponce Enrile, who was in the US at the time of chef Ed’s death, said in a text message: “Chef Ed and I are soul mates when it comes to food. We spent six years creating good food and this is an everyday thing. I am sorry if I use the word ‘is’ instead of ‘was,’ because he will always be present in my life. Every time I enter a restaurant or cook in my kitchen, chef Ed will always be there with me. He was my partner in many things, not only in food… We traveled together many times, always enjoying and discovering all kinds of cuisine. We talked about everything over food and wine, and during those times, there never seemed any problems at all! In a way, he and I were the perfect match in the things we love to do best, which always had to do with cooking!
“And no matter how big he was in terms of his experience in the kitchen, he never failed to savor everything I cooked, and he ate it with such gusto! That is the testament of my ‘cheffy,’ always ready to compliment, always ready to please, always ready to share, always ready to be my friend. I love you dear ‘cheffy’ and I will miss you so very much!”
Nancy Reyes Lumen
Another good friend and buddy, “Adobo Queen” Nancy Reyes Lumen, listed some reasons “chef Ed Q doesn’t want me to forget him.”
“I have to confess that chef Ed and I also had our own squabbles and tampuhan. But all of them ended well—kiss and hugs. That’s how it is with chef Ed. You can’t resist loving him. He’s just that way.”
“First, God made him to be irresistibly cute; whether he gained or lost weight, he had that friendly Tisoy appeal, specially when he smiled. And when you hugged him, it’s like you were hugging a giant marshmallow.
“There was a time he did an act of (non-chef) chivalry for Corito Fiel and me. When he was executive chef at 6750 and he just had a tummy tuck, he was in a black tight-fitting shirt and looked so guapo. We were having a drink at 6750 to meet with Ed, but while waiting for him, a foreigner was trying to get near our table. I went to the kitchen and asked chef Ed: ‘Can you come to our table and act like you were our date and get this guy off our back?’ He gladly did, in all his tummy-tucked appeal; he sat at our table and acted like the perfect escort. The poor picker-upper shied away.
“Of course, we will always savor his corned beef recipe; and how generous he was with cooking tips and the sources of his ingredients. Also, his now signature paella tinola. Plus his kare-kare, callos, ham, roast pork, roast beef, ribs. Such endless feasts!
“How he danced. Chef Ed’s buns were the cutest pillow buns you could ever watch smoothly swaying left and right as he danced. His mom Betty said she was the one who taught him how to dance gracefully, giving him a dancing secret—that one moved from the knee and not from the feet. So when Ed danced, he was like floating on air—so light and graceful as if he was in flight. No kidding, you simply had to swoon at his suave moves.
“When he was operated on and survived his bypass, we would visit him at Makati Medical City. This was one time Ed told me that if ever he was in love, it would be with this person—his nurse who took good care of him during his recovery. He said he fell in love with her. But she had to leave for abroad and get married, and that was a lost love and hidden chapter in his life.
“With Doreen Fernandez—there are very few people who could be of strong influence on Doreen. Chef Ed was perhaps on top of the list. When Doreen was confined in the hospital, so was Ed. So I got to visit both and I introduced chef Ed to her. They became instant friends—what I called ‘Twin Hearts.’ He would walk to her room and swap stories with her, sneak some bites from the food gifts brought for Doreen… That was the beginning of a really close friendship between the two of them. You could see that Doreen was happy, almost childlike, whenever she was visited by him. And those were many afternoon soirees, I would suppose, because of the length of time they were confined. At one point, while Doreen was recovering from a major medical procedure, I dropped by for a peep and what did I see? Ed and Doreen—eating lechon de leche! Ed had that sheepish smile on him, guilty but smiling. So was Doreen.
“Last December, I saw chef Ed at a catering. He looked exhausted from the work and was seated with the cooks and chefs who were preparing the party food. He had his feet up, had gained some weight. Chef Ed said to me, ‘I’m tired na, Nance. I wanna go na.’”
Heny Sison, one of chef Ed’s good friends and fellow food endorser, is also having a hard time accepting the loss.
“I met him back in the ’80s,” said Sison. “As early as then, I noticed how he would think out of the box. He was not traditional. I think he was the first to do fusion cuisine. Who would have thought of making samosa tinapa or balut soufflé? Or one of his offbeat creations: bagoong with mayonnaise, eaten with rice? So, I invited him to teach in my school for Spanish cooking, which he gladly accepted. There, I realized how passionate he was in teaching and imparting skills and knowledge to students. He had impressive rapport with his students, most of whom became successful in their careers.
“He wasn’t ashamed to say that he was a school dropout. For me, he was amazingly gifted when it came to cooking. If you lose someone, he/she leaves a hole in your heart and it will never grow back. He left a hole in my heart. He was more than a friend to me and more like a brother. Yes, we had ups and downs, but he was always there for me.
“Chef Ed once told me, ‘I am 40 years old in an eight-year-old body. I am tired but I might as well enjoy life. I know I will be gone soon.’”
Before his self-indulgence took a toll on chef Ed’s health, he was recently conferred an honorary degree by the Center for Culinary Arts-Manila for his exemplary passion, dedication and contributions to the culinary industry.
He was supposed to teach at CCA before he got hospitalized.
“Chef Ed supported CCA during its formative years by being part of the advisory board,” said Badjie Trinidad, chief executive officer of Cravings Group of Companies. “He was always generous with his knowledge, expertise and time. My fondest memory of him was when he initiated his interest to obtain a formal certification from the school. As someone who’s already an accomplished chef, he displayed humility by giving importance to formal education. We will miss him.”
From Annie Guerrero, president of Culinary Education and Foundation, where chef Ed donated his professional fees to support poor students studying for a degree in culinary education: “Chef Ed will hold a special place in CCA’s history. In 1996, he graciously accepted our invitation to be a part of the board of advisers. He struck me and the rest of the management team with his endearing qualities of sincerity, simplicity, dedication and love of work. He rose to become a well-acclaimed chef and successful in the career he pursued, notwithstanding his acceptance that he did not even finish his secondary education. That is the height of humility. In the last CCA commencement exercises in December 2012, we awarded him with a first in culinary education—an honorary degree, for the ultimate chef who’s worthy of emulation by our new breed of aspiring chefs!”
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
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